The Happy Face of Janus




The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSME strikes a very local chord for me.

Probably the most shocking, formative revelations from my experience as a young blogger covering public controversies in my town and state in Rhode Island had to do with labor unions, specifically teachers unions.

The first local school committee meeting I attended happened to be during contract negotiation season, and afterwards I sat in the parking lot and blogged with my pre-iPhone computer phone writing, “If what I witnessed tonight is any indication, concerned citizens have reason to fear that the dynamic created by unionization makes our school systems much less effective, making it more difficult for all of those involved to work together in mutual respect.”  I suggested that “anybody who is interested in encouraging professionalism in our schools ought to call for the end of teachers’ unions.”

Looking back through those posts from 2007, one can trace my hardening views.  About a month after that meeting, I wrote, “The unions are a cancer in our education system. Cut them out, and teachers, parents, and elected officials can be on the same side again.”

Not long afterwards, my opinion was sealed in a nearby town where the school committee had dared to stand up to the union.  The atmosphere was like a circus.

At that meeting, I became acquainted with more of the non-teacher unionists from the National Education Association of Rhode Island.  It’s funny how their names and faces start to pop up once you recognize them.  As the school committee chairman exited the auditorium, one guy got right up in his face and started screaming and waving his arms.  I later learned he was a lawyer for the NEA.  He has a tendency to appear when there’s trouble to be made.

Another of the regulars got himself in the local paper when he gave the superintendent the finger.  And still another familiar face attracted attention when a recording emerged of him threatening a state representative in an elevator.

My first response to these observations is as a parent.  Watching teachers’ behavior made private school feel more like an obligation than just another option.

My second response is as the husband of a teacher.  Aren’t union teachers embarrassed?  Surely some of them must want nothing to do with this horrible behavior… it’s more like a mix between a cult and a mafia shakedown.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus, teachers and other government employees can finally stop having to be associated with this sort of behavior as a condition of their employment.  Even as a matter of self-interest, it has to be obvious to great teachers that they’re under-selling themselves by joining these thuggish organizations.

In 2007, another nearby Rhode Island school district had to let go of a a teacher who had just been awarded with teacher of the year.  She didn’t have enough seniority to keep her job.

So young Americans — by which I mean Millennials, mainly — should resist the spin they’re certain to hear about the Janus ruling.  Freedom from unions is good for the families who rely on government services and it’s good for the employees who deserve better than the unions are able to secure for all of them as a group.

Now government employees who aren’t happy with the low bar set by their unions can choose not to support them and still not have to find another career.

  • Merle The Monster

    This ruling has nothing to do with improving education or securing peoples freedom of speech. It has everything to do with reducing public sector unions political influence by reducing the amount of money collected by way of dues and fees .Conservative activists fueled by billionaire donors money have engineered this latest case and seen its success with help from Senate Leader McConnell’s refusal to meet the Senate’s constitutional obligation to advise and consent then President Obama”s choice to replace deceased Justice Scalia with almost a full year left in the President’s second term in office. And you talk of horrible behavior. That was a blatant disregard of the will of the American people for their choice for President and his constitutional choice of a Supreme Court Justice. This has been nothing more than a naked political power grab by conservative Republicans

    • Mike678

      Isn’t this decision all about freedom? It enabled people to make a choice; these choices may impact the union bottom line. Oh, the horror–the union leadership may have to listen to their members or risk losing their support. You support freedom, don’t you?

      • Merle The Monster

        Unions already separated their political activities from their workplace obligations and members would did not want to financially support the political efforts were not made to pay that portion of their dues or were reimbursed. This ruling makes it possible for those workers to pay no dues but still enjoy all the benefits of union membership . Tromp’s tweet yesterday in part said “big loss for Democrat coffers” undercutting the spin coming from other politicians and the think tank crowd and opinion writers. I support the freedom of workers not to have to pay for their union’s political activities and that is what the situation was
        before this ruling

        • Mike678

          A very nuanced, long winded “no.”

          I agree that members can opt out of political donations, though that process is often restrictive, not well advertised by many unions, and has to be done annually. This, however, had nothing to do with the decision.

          Moving past the irrelevant political donation red herring, what if the member doesn’t support the union tactics, the legal support of less performing members, and so forth? What if they don’t like the fat-cat salaries and rising dues? What if they feel the cost to gain ratio is too high? What if they can’t afford the cost of the dues? Surely, if the unions are such a benefit, this ruling should have little effect.

          No–this is freedom for the individual, and unions will have to cater a bit more to the people they represent. Imagine that!